2-corinthians

2 Corinthians 13

2 Corinthians 13 Today we finish the Corinthian correspondence by reading 2 Corinthians 13.

Paul wrapped up this letter by warning the Corinthians again about his coming visit. He was hopeful, as we saw in earlier chapters, that his visit would be warm and affirming. Yet, he was concerned about how he would be received and whether or not he would have to deal with those who were in sin through church discipline (v. 2b). Rather than waiting for Paul to arrive and sort the situation out, it would be better if the church examined and corrected itself. So, Paul urged them in verses 5-6 to examine themselves “to see whether you are in the faith.” If someone is a genuine believer in Christ, certain things will be true. One of those things is dealing properly with sin in his or her life. Genuine Christians sin and may resist dealing with sin for a time, but no genuine Christian will be complacent when there is serious, ongoing sin in their lives over an extended period of time. Anyone who calls himself a Christian but lives in sin for an ongoing length of time is either headed toward God’s discipline in his or her life or not one of God’s children at all. Since the Corinthians were once again tolerating unrepentant sin in their church (v. 2), Paul called them to examine themselves.

There are some Christians who struggle with doubts about their salvation, some for many years. These believers live in a state of continual self-evaluation. Since none of us is perfect, there is always evidence of our sinfulness in our lives. Many Christians overlook all the positive growth and godly character qualities they have developed and focus only on their in struggles. This passage really isn’t for them.

Instead, this passage is for those who are highly confident of their salvation, but display little to know fruit in their lives--no souls saved, no growth in holiness, nothing really but an empty profession of faith. That person is in a dangerous place because their lives show more evidence of unbelief than of genuine faith.

Could that be you? Does your life give evidence that you are a Christian or do you comfort yourself that you are a Christian based only only your profession of faith?

2 Corinthians 12

Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 12.

Paul continued defending his ministry in today’s reading. Remember that this started back in chapter 10 and continued through chapter 11. His defense was necessary because people within the church attempted to discredit him and his ministry. Paul referred to the things he said about himself as “boasting” because he is talking about himself, explaining why the Corinthians should appreciate him and be champions of his ministry instead criticizing and doubting him. Paul hated doing this (v. 11). But he felt it was necessary so that he could strengthen them in their faith (v. 19) and prune the sin from the body (vv. 20-21).

This chapter recounts the revelations he had seen (v. 1) and the supernatural powers that had God had used him to work (v. 12). But rather than truly “boasting” about these things, Paul mentions them as evidence of his apostleship, but also included how God had humbled him by giving him his infamous “thorn in the flesh.” People have speculated what the “thorn in the flesh” might be but Paul never specified. Maybe he didn’t specify what it was because he did not want people to know; maybe he didn’t specify because the Corinthians already knew what it was. Regardless, Paul used the “divine passive” to describe how he received this “thorn.” The “divine passive” is when someone uses the passive voice to describe something God did. Paul used it in verse 7b when he says, “I was given a thorn in my flesh....” We know that God gave it to him because Paul said he received it “to keep me from becoming conceited.” We also know that it came from God because he “pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me” (v. 8). Despite the fact that God gave it to him, he called it “a messenger of Satan” which probably means that it limited his ability to do the Lord’s work.

Paul “pleaded” with God to rescue him from this thorn in the flesh three times according to verse 8. Instead of answering his prayer with deliverance, God answered it by promising his grace to Paul to deal with this “thorn,” whatever it was. Although this problem created weakness for Paul physically, it strengthened him spiritually just as God promised when he said, “my power is made perfect in weakness” (v. 9c).

Do you have any nagging problems in your life? They may not be physical or even visible to others but they discourage you, limit you in some way, and cause you distress. God’s promise to Paul in verse 9 is an opportunity for all of us who know Christ. The hardship(s) you and I face in life may be the thing that keeps us walking with God, keeps us depending on his power, and calls us to look to him in faith daily. Next time you find yourself pleading with God to take the problem away, ask instead for his grace to endure it and for his power to work in your spiritual life in a greater way.

2 Corinthians 11

Today we’re reading 2 Corinthians 11.

Yesterday, as we read chapter 10, we saw how concerned Paul was about having to boldly confront somebody within the church at Corinth. Judging from what Paul wrote at the end of chapter 10 and here in chapter 11, the person or people he was concerned about were heavy self-promotors (10:12, 18; 11:5, 21). In today’s reading, Paul was quite emotional about how effectively these people had ingratiated themselves with the church and, it seems, how they had marginalized Paul and his ministry (v. 12). While he was concerned about these personality conflicts, he was more concerned about the false doctrine these “personalities” were bringing (v. 4, 13). This chapter is one of several in Paul’s letters where he reviewed his personal history as a servant of Christ (vv. 21-33). Not only did he suffer much for the gospel throughout his ministry, he also suffered much for the benefit of the Corinthians directly (vv. 7-12). Yet the Corinthians seemed unmoved by how much Paul had done for them and had sacrificed for the Lord. To them, Paul was an inferior speaker (v. 6) and others were deserving of equal status and respect to him (vv. 12, 19-20).

What Paul was saying in this chapter extends into chapter 12 as well, so we’ll see more on Monday when we read that. But the problem he addressed in this chapter continues today. It’s the myth of the greener grass, the idea that what I’m getting now isn’t as good as what I could get from others. I’ve seen this repeatedly in my adult life and in the ministry. Dr. So-and-so from out of town is a great speaker, a godly man, someone whose opinion isn’t inspired and infallible, but almost.... Meanwhile, faithful elders, patient pastors, good bosses, giving spouses, or others are taken for granted. This isn’t to say that Dr. So-and-so isn’t everything they claim him to be. He may be a godly man and a great servant of Christ or he may be a false teacher who is really persuasive (v. 4). The point is that people by nature get used to what they have and become bedazzled by the new thing, the author they just learned about, the new church in town, or the girl that caught their eye today. New things are exciting because they are new but the newness wears off eventually. Do we recognize and appreciate the good things in our lives that have been there a long time, consistently serving us well?

The church in Corinth was started by Paul at great person cost (verses 7-9, Acts 18:1-11). He was willing to do hard things to purify the church for the glory of Christ (v. 2) and was tormented with concern for them even when he was doing God’s work in other cities (vv. 28-29). Yet the church never seemed to appreciate him very much and constantly, negatively compared him to others. There is probably some realm in your life or some point in your past where you did something similar-took for granted someone who was faithfully and deeply devoted to you and negatively compared them to someone who hadn’t done anything for you except, maybe, collect your money when they sold you a book or a seminar. I’m guilty of this as well and--just in case you are wondering-I’m not talking about myself here. This passage just reminded me of something I’ve seen more than a few times in my life. Whether we recognize it or not, all of us have benefited from others who served us consistently and without complaint. Let’s be careful to appreciate and be thankful to the Lord for them instead of being quick to point out their flaws when compared to others. Whether your realize it or not, you probably have it better than you think so be thankful for the contribution other people have made to your life for God’s glory.

2 Corinthians 10

Today’s reading in 2 Corinthians 10.

Chapters 8-9 were about the collection Paul was coming to receive from the Thessalonians. He was concerned, though, that his visit would require some tough love (vv. 1-2). It is unclear who Paul was expecting to have a confrontation with, but it is clear that he wanted to avoid the confrontation, if possible, by appealing “by the humility and gentleness of Christ” (v.1) to his potential opponents.

If they did not back down, Paul promised to be bold (v. 2) in his confrontations with them. This was the opposite of what the Corinthians expected (vv. 10-11). In the past they found his letters to be strong but his real life approach to be weak (v. 10). This time he promised just the opposite (v. 11). He was confident that he had the spiritual weapons he needed to win the victory in Corinth for Christ (v. 4). And what were those weapons? Argumentation (v. 5) and church discipline (v. 6). When Paul says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” he is speaking of the battle of ideas, of truth claims. When he encountered false teaching, he was more than prepared to defeat their arguments with his own argumentation. He was also capable subjecting thoughts to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

What we see in the first 6 verses of this chapter is that spirituality and clear thinking and communication are not enemies but partners to the glory of God. Unfortunately, there is a lot of teaching out there that disparages a godly use of the mind to trade it in for something more “spiritual.” To Paul, using his mind for the glory of God to rebuke and correct false teaching was a deeply spiritual act. Developing his mind was part of living to the glory of God; so was using it for the good of God’s people.

I find that a lot of Christians are not readers. We spend little time developing our minds and filling it with great content to be used by God. Some even try to set “spirituality” against the intellect as if they were enemies. But part of following Christ and maturing in him is learning to control your own thoughts as well as to refuse Satan’s. In addition to spending time daily in God’s word, be someone who regularly reads in order to be more effective in service for Christ. Join a small group and a Calvary Class and let us help you identify your weak areas and learn to grow in them.

2 Corinthians 9

Today let’s read 2 Corinthians 9.

This chapter continued the subject Paul began in chapter 8. Both chapters are about the collection for the suffering believers in Jerusalem.

Yesterday, I’M SURE YOU RECALL, was about how the men collecting the offering would behave honorably with the money. They would do what is right in God’s sight and in the eyes of men.

Today, here in chapter 9, the subject shifted to the givers of the offering. The Corinthians had already eagerly agreed to give (vv. 1-2) but Paul was sending some of his associates to help the Corinthians to do what they had pledged to do (vv. 3-5). Starting with verse 6, Paul supplied some motivation for the believers in Corinth to give generously. There are two things that should motivate their giving:

  1. The opportunity to reap abundantly (vv. 6-11).
  2. The opportunity to cause other believers to give thanks to God (vv. 12-15).

Verses 6-11 describe the first reason to give generously which is that giving generously is an opportunity to reap abundantly. Although the New Testament never promises wealth and prosperity for believers, this passage tells us that God financially blesses those who give generously. Verse 11 is very clear about this: “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous....” God gives material blessings to those who give generously.

Verses 12-15 talk about the spiritual results of giving generously which is that those who benefit from your giving will give thanks to God. If you have ever received an unexpected gift, especially if it was one that met an immediate need in your life, you understand these verses. Financial problems create stress for people; they cause people to worry and feel anxiety. The Bible commands believers not to worry but to ask God for his help. When God uses the giving of another person to provide that help, the believer who was rescued financially will be awed at the power of God, grateful that he answers prayer, and will naturally return thanks to the Father for his provision.

How is your giving? Have you stopped giving because you’re worried about your finances? Have you made the excuse that you can’t afford to give but you will when your financial picture improves? This passage, and many others in the Old and New Testaments, call on us to give first and trust God to provide. Giving is an act of faith because when we give our money or our time or other resources for the Lord’s use, we lose the benefits of that money, time, or whatever. So we give it up in faith asking the Lord to provide for us in the future. This passage says he will. Are you willing to claim God’s promise on this and give generously to his work?

2 Corinthians 8

And, today read 2 Corinthians 8.

Way back on May 11 we read Acts 19, then broke off our reading of Acts to read the two letters to the Corinthians. It seems clear that Paul wrote both of these letters during the two years (Acts 19:10) that Paul was in Ephesus. In the middle of Acts 19, verse 21 says, “After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia.” Corinth is in Achaia which is the southern peninsula of Greece. Paul’s purpose for going to Jerusalem by way of Macedonia and Achaia was to collect an offering from the churches in Greece to help the believers in Jerusalem who were suffering under a famine. Today’s reading, 2 Corinthians 8, discussed that offering for the believers in Jerusalem.

First Paul described the generosity of the Macedonian churches (vv. 1-5). Macedonia is the northern part of Greece and the churches there were the Philippians, the Thessalonians, and others. These churches were facing trials of their own (v. 2a) but were generous in their giving (vv. 2b-5). Paul used their example to encourage the Corinthians to give excellently (v. 7a) as well, which they had already promised to do (vv. 10-15). This chapter closed with a description about how Titus and someone else were coming to collect the offering from the Corinthians (vv. 16-24). In the middle of that section, verses 19-21 discussed the level of accountability that they used in carrying this gift. Paul said in verse 21, “For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.”

In Paul’s world, people paid traveling speakers for their wisdom and even for religious instructions. That gave dishonest, unscrupulous people an opportunity to take advantage of people by asking for money “for a good cause” but keeping much, if not all, of it for themselves. Paul wanted to guard against the temptation to take that money (“to do what is right... in the eyes of the Lord,” v. 21) and against any appearance or accusation of stealing it (v. 21b: “but also in the eyes of man”). Accordingly, each church sent a representative with Paul to accompany this offering to Jerusalem. That way, there were plenty of witnesses that every dime collected was given to the Lord’s people.

Having good financial controls and accountability do not lift one’s spirit to worship. However, the Bible says repeatedly that someone’s attitude about money reflects that person’s walk with God. The Bible warns us again and again about false teachers who are looking for financial gain and for others who will use the Lord’s work as a means to wealth. Many ministries have been victims of embezzlement; others have enriched the ministers in ways that were perfectly legal but not righteous. These fiscal missteps are both sins because they take what was given to the Lord’s work for personal enrichment. I believe the Bible teaches us to give generously to the Lord’s work; I also believe that it requires us to handle the money given to the Lord’s work appropriately.

Ministries are not the only places where money can be embezzled or mishandled. If you are given the opportunity to handle an organization’s money, be someone who welcome’s good supervision and financial controls. They will protect you from false accusations as well as temptation.

2 Corinthians 7

Today, read 2 Corinthians 7.

At the end of chapter 6, which we read on Friday, God’s word told us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (v. 14). One reason to obey this command is the promise of God in verse 16, “I will be their God, and they will be my people” and the promise in verse 18, “I will be a Father to you... says the Lord Almighty.” These are promises of a unique, personal, family relationship with God. What relationship with an unbeliever can replace that? There is no greater promise that could be made to a man or woman than this kind of love from God.

Today’s passage began with the word, “therefore.” What Paul says in verse 1, therefore, is a conclusion based on those last few verses of chapter 6 where Paul repeated these promises of God from the Old Testament. Given that God has promised us this, what is the best way we could respond? According to verse 1, “let us purify ourselves... perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” As believers, we learn to choose righteousness over sinfulness, holiness over unholiness by believing that God’s promises of fellowship with him will be better--far better--than anything sin can offer us, including the companionship of being yoked with unbelievers.

In the moment of temptation, this is one truth we can remind ourselves of to help us choose what is right over what is sinful. This isn’t the only thing we have to help us be holy, but it is a powerful motivator when the lure of temptation draws us toward sin. Since we reverence God, let us choose what is holy over what is unholy. May God grace us to do that today.

2 Corinthians 6

Today we’re scheduled to read 2 Corinthians 6.

This chapter continues the thread of the past several where Paul commends the ministry of himself and his co-workers to the fickle, loveless (v. 12) Corinthians. The first few verses (vv. 1-2) wrap up the discussion from chapter 5 about the importance of the gospel message which Paul and his men preached. Verses 3-10 lays out the reasons why Paul and his associates should be loved and championed by the believers in Corinth, then in verses 11-13 Paul directly urged the church in Corinth to give that love and acceptance to him and his coworkers in the gospel.

In verses 14-18 Paul changed the subject to the relationship the church in Corinth should have with unbelievers. This seems like a sudden change in subject like a driver making a right hand turn from the left hand turn lane. This is not Paul’s usual style for moving from one topic to another, so it is possible--likely even--that this section is connected to the previous section. Verses 11-12 pleaded for the Corinthians to “open wide your hearts also” to Paul and his associates. Those verses plus this section may indicate that Paul feared the church was turning away from his leadership and toward some other kind of spiritual leadership, a leadership that came from “unbelievers.” Note how verse 16 says, “What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.” Given the strong presence of idolatry in Corinth, it might be that the Corinthians had moved from merely eating food offered to idols (as we saw in 1 Corinthians) and had begun mixing Christ with some of the other religious practices in Corinth.

If that is true and the Corinthians were flirting with idolatry in some way, then how would this passage apply to us today? First of all, the most common application of this passage--don’t marry an unbeliever--would still apply. Verse 14 laid down a command that would apply across many dimensions of a believer’s life.

But, secondly, consider the phrase, “we are the temple of the living God” (v. 16b). The wording of that verse seems to suggest the entire church as God’s temple, not our individual bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Maybe the church in Corinth had begun accepting unbelievers into membership, treating them as if they were Christians even though they were freely mixing Christianity with idolatry. Maybe they had begun using the idol temples as places for Christian worship and the unsaved population around them was confused. Maybe they even began consulting with false teachers from the idol temples, borrowing some of their ideas to mix with the scripture.

These days there are churches that perform secular songs in their worship services. There are churches that recommend books and authors who are “spiritual” but not Christians. These would, in my opinion, be violations of this passage. Today’s chapter, then, teaches us to be careful about how we treat those who don’t explicitly claim to follow Jesus. We may read books by secular authors but we should never treat any book but God’s word as the authority on any subject. To do that would be placing that book on a level similar to scripture. We certainly should allow unbelievers to attend our church--what better way to save them?--but we should not act as if everyone who attends weekly is automatically a believer.

What is your relationship to unbelievers? The Bible certainly calls us to be in contact with them so as to give the gospel message and live out our faith among them. But be careful about giving them acceptance or an audience that is equal to or greater than the acceptance and authority of Christ himself.

2 Corinthians 5

Today, read 2 Corinthians 5.

Yesterday in 2 Corinthians 4, we read that Paul and his companions did not lose heart despite the hardships they faced because they have a ministry that transforms lives by the power of Christ. Today’s reading continued the theme of serving the Lord despite the costs that come with it. Another reason not to lose heart is eternity--“we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven” (v. 1b). Believers should long for eternity (vv. 2-8) but live for Christ with the time we have on this earth (vv. 9-10). Living for Christ means reaching out to non-believers with the life-transforming power of the gospel message (vv. 11-21), so this is why Paul and his team kept traveling, kept giving the gospel despite the pain of persecution and the difficulty of dealing with disrespectful churches.

There are so many powerful verses in this chapter!

  • verse 7: “For we live by faith, not by sight.”
  • verse 10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
  • verse 11: “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.”
  • verse 15: “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
  • verse 17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.”
  • verse 20: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
  • verse 21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

But the one that stands out to me today is verse 9, “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” Pleasing God is not the same as trying to earn his love or his salvation. That’s impossible; God loved us unconditionally when we were still sinners and saved us as a gift of his grace alone. But, once saved by God’s grace, we want to become holy like he is and to rescue sinners like he did. God is pleased with these things because they are the evidence of the life of the Holy Spirit within us (v. 5) and because they show that we are “no longer living for” ourselves “but for him who died for” us “and was raised again” (v. 15).

Now that we are God’s children, our goal is to please him with our lives. Is this a goal that we think about daily? Whatever you face today, consider what it would look like to please the Lord in the things you pay attention to, the decisions and choices you make, and what you do with the time in front of you.

2 Corinthians 4

Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 4.

Though I did not write about it, yesterday’s chapter began with Paul defending his ministry to the Corinthians (3:1-6) and arguing that the Corinthians themselves were a proof that God was working in Paul and his partners as they ministered. In both 1 and 2 Corinthians, Paul addressed an undercurrent of disrespect from the Corinthians. If God used you to establish a church, then some of the people there started disrespecting you, it would be natural and very human to become discouraged about the ministry. Add to that the kind of persecutions and pressures that Paul and his team faced (4:8-12) and it is easy to see how someone might quit serving the Lord altogether.

Paul did not downplay the problems he faced for the gospel, but he opened this chapter by saying that, despite these problems, “we do not lose heart” (v. 1). Instead, the ability he and his team had to keep serving the Lord despite the very human weaknesses they had reminded them that it was God working through them, not their own power or ability (vv. 7-12, 16-17).

Today’s chapter also touched on the method they used to reach people for Christ. Their method was to set “forth the truth plainly” (v. 2). There was no need to use deception or pressure or any other tactics to get people to trust Christ (v. 2a) because the problem unbelievers had believing the gospel was a spiritual problem, a blindness from Satan that veiled the glory of Christ in the gospel (vv. 3-5). The right approach, then, was to “preach Jesus Christ as Lord” (v. 5a) and depend on God’s power to save people (v. 6).

What were their qualifications for this ministry, then? Simply that they believed in Jesus: “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself” (vv. 13-14). They gave the gospel and called people to repent and trust Jesus because that is the truth they believed when they became Christians.

Too often we are quiet about our faith because we think we don’t have the best arguments or the right answers or that we are not personally persuasive. These are excuses; what matters is that we have believed the gospel ourselves (v. 13) and that we are relying on God to work through us when we speak (vv. 5-6). Is there someone in your relationships--at work, in your family, in your neighborhood--who has not heard you share Christ? Is one of these excuses the reason why? Let the truth of this chapter encourage you and embolden you to speak up. Only Christ can remove the veil of unbelief from a person’s spiritual eyes. Our job is to faithfully and plainly share the message. If you get a chance today, step up to the opportunity to speak about Christ.

2 Corinthians 3

Today’s chapter is 2 Corinthians 3 according to our schedule.

Have you ever wondered why two people can read the same Bible passage yet one believes and the other does not? The answer is here in 2 Corinthians 3, specifically verses 12-18. Those who do not believe have their hearts veiled (vv. 14-15). Their eyes can see the words and their minds can understand them at a certain level. However, unbelief covers their eyes, spiritually speaking. Paul compared this spiritual problem to the problem Moses encountered when he was on Mount Sinai. After spending hours in the Lord’s presence, Moses’ face radiated light (v. 7) so he put a veil over his face so that the Israelites would not be alarmed or disturbed by the sight of his glow. Similarly, unbelief stood between unbelieving Israelites (and any other unbelievers) and the glory of God revealed in the Old Testament (v. 14). All the prophecies that predicted Christ, all the promises God made, all the instructions on how to live a life that pleased Him were seen but not really grasped by faith.

The only remedy to this problem is Christ. There is no way for us to remove the veil from our own eyes or anyone else’s; rather, “only in Christ is it taken away” (v. 14c). According to verse 16, however, Christ saved us to reveal the glory of God in the word to us. “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” Now, according to verse 18, God uses the word to transform us into his image as we see his glory displayed in the word.

This is one reason why believers in Christ need to be in the word on a regular basis. We are transformed spiritually by the power of God as we read the word because in Christ we have an ability to receive the word, believe the word, and obey it to become like Christ. I hope these daily readings are helping you to grow in your faith in Christ. Keep reading so that you will be more and more transformed into God’s image.

2 Corinthians 2

Read 2 Corinthians 2 today.

One of the issues we have in interpreting 1 and 2 Corinthians is that there were letters exchanged between the Corinthians and Paul that we do not have. Paul also referenced visiting them (v. 1: “another painful visit”) but that visit is not discussed in Acts--though scholars have made a good explanation of where it could have happened. Some have compared reading 1st and especially 2nd Corinthians to listening to one half of a phone conversation. If you’ve ever done that, for instance when your spouse is talking on the phone in your presence, you know how confusing it can get. You listen to what your spouse says and then try to imagine what might have been said on the other end of the conversation, the one you can’t hear. At least, that’s what I do when someone is talking on the phone near me....

Anyway, we have these two letters, but there were other communications between Paul and this church that we don’t have. That means we have to speculate somewhat. We can still understand what the Holy Spirit was teaching through Paul, we just don’t know--for certain, at least--all the details.

It is true that Paul commanded the church to discipline a man from the church in 1 Corinthians 5:13. It is also true that, here in 2 Corinthians 2, Paul commanded the church to restore a man to fellowship who had been under discipline. Some scholars think, though, that this is actually a different case of church discipline than the one Paul ordered in 1 Corinthians 5. Whether the man referenced in the passage today is the same guy as 2 Corinthians 2 or not, it seems clear that the church had removed him from its fellowship (v. 6) and that he repented and sought to be restored to fellowship (v. 7a). But the Corinthian church was having a hard time with the forgiveness part. In verse 7 Paul commanded them to “forgive and comfort him” and in verse 8 he encouraged them “to reaffirm your love for him” (v. 8b).

Forgiveness is sometimes easy. When someone has sinned against us in ways that we also have done toward others, we might find it easier to forgive. When we don’t really feel like we’ve been harmed, it may be easy to forgive. When we empathize with why someone sinned, it is not nearly as hard to receive that person’s repentance. But those situations--the easy to forgive ones--are rare. Much of the time we wallow in the pain caused by the sin of others and we are tempted to return equal pain and then some more to the one who sinned against us. Imagine an entire church filled with people who felt that way. Imagine what it must be like for the repentant sinner not to be received. Forgiveness is rarely easy, but it is always right when there is repentance. If you are struggling to forgive someone, even though you know they have changed their minds about their sin, ask God to give you the grace that he showed to us when he forgave us in Christ.

2 Corinthians 1

Today’s reading is chapter 1 of 2 Corinthians.

Paul wrote this letter to the church at Corinth to continue addressing problems in the church. One problem, which he addressed in verses 12-24, was criticism he received for changing his travel plans after he had told the Corinthians he was coming to visit them. Before he got to that issue, however, he took time to praise God for how God had comforted him during the troubles he and his ministry partners had experienced in Asia (v. 8).

Why does God allow problems into our lives? Why aren’t his servants exempt from problems as a reward for their ministry of the gospel? There are at least four answers and three of them are discussed in this chapter.

First, God allows problems into our lives because we live in a fallen world. Until the redemption of all things is complete, problems will be part of life for everyone--believers and non-believers alike. This we know from other texts, not this chapter.

Second, God allows problems into our lives so that he can comfort us and teach us to comfort others (v. 4). The best people to help you when you are persecuted are those who have endured persecution themselves. The best people to help you when you face a life-threatening illness are those who have been there. They are the “best people” to help because they can empathize with your struggles more deeply and more personally. They know what encouraged and helped them when they were struggling, so that makes them more equipped to help you.

Third, God allows problems into our lives to test and strengthen our faith. Verse 6 says that problems produce “in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.” That “patient endurance” is not just giving up and taking it, like when you’re stuck in stopped traffic on the freeway and there is nothing you can do about it. “Patient endurance” is the ability to trust God throughout the duration of a trial rather than giving up faith in him. Trials reveal whether we are truly trusting in God or whether we are self-deceived about our faith. They also teach us to look to God for comfort, help, and deliverance which strengthens our faith when God delivers us. Verse 9 made the same point when it said, “this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” For true Christians, trials drive us closer to God while problems in life drive unbelievers further from him. That doesn’t mean you’ll never question God; read the Psalms and you’ll see plenty of verses that question God. Instead, while your faith may waver and feel week, it will ultimately hold and eventually get stronger through trials.

Fourth, God allows problems into our lives to teach others how to pray. Verse 11 says, “...as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” As you go through problems in life and ask others to pray for you, your trial gives them the opportunity to learn intercessory prayer. When the trial ends, it gives other believers who prayed for you the opportunity to give thanks to God.

What problems and struggles are you facing right now? Which of these lessons do you feel God is teaching you most directly? If you’re not facing a trial in your life right now, give thanks for God’s favor but study the list above, too, to fortify yourself for when the problems arrive.